Media Outlaws and the New Confederate Flag

I’ve been reading Wayne Johnston’s book The Navigator of New York.

Navigator of New York

There’s  a passage about the explorer Robert Peary’s wife, Jo, who, even in the 13 months or so of being marooned in the Arctic, had kept herself and her husband distant from the rest of the crew by means of a thin curtain to separate them from their “social inferiors”.

No matter where you are on this planet, some people think they’re better than the rest. The rest, resent this.

Think of the  “down trodden” and “forgotten” voters for Trump. This is the almost  mythical group who say they’ve been left behind.

But now, they’re in power. Who’s the forgotten now?

If Trump and his Eminence grise, Steven Bannon,


have their way, it will be establishment media. TV networks and newspapers.

They have branded “the media” as the Opposition Party.

That’s a somewhat amazing statement given that “oppositional media” or “alternative media” (think “alt-right”) exactly sums up Bannon’s Breitbart News Network.

They’ve made the media the enemy and have the full support of their voter base. The left-behinders.

All this is frightening. As American emotion ramps up between those who think Trump is the devil and those who think he’s their saviour, it has the makings of a new kind of civil war.

Who will carry the new “Confederate” flag this time? The Democrats? The Media?

 Chris Rock's Malcom X flag for south carolina

Maybe Chris Rock’s suggestion above?

I do not come at this with a political agenda or with any particular psychological insights into American society. I come at this as both a media producer and I.T. professional.
I do know something about fiction and how to produce it for the media.

I know that 9/11 and Donald Trump’s election, would not be believed as fiction. Maybe you could pitch them as ideas for a B grade Sci-Fi movie.

It’s a time when everything you see on television makes no impact because it just seems so tame and immaterial compared to what’s going on in real life.

Trump is from reality TV, which is fake life. Scripted fake life.

Both Trump and his megaphone (Twitter) are the latest examples of popular American media and technology.

Trump tweet

He is using new media to kill old media.  Using Twitter against the major TV networks, he can “leap frog” directly to their voter base and the American public at large.

We know what the bullets look like. They look like 140 character index cards with recipes for insanity printed on them.
Without Twitter, he may not have won the election.

h l mencken

A few days ago, Charlie Rose had Bill Gates and Warren Buffett on his show. These guys could buy and sell Donald Trump.
They didn’t mention Trump once. The big boys were sitting at the grown up table and Donald was off to the side at his folding card table for Christmas dinner.
It occurred to me that this is the way to get Trump.

He’s a reality TV producer. That’s the way he’s going to run the USA.
As the old Zen saying goes: “The way he does one thing is the way he does everything”.

Trump craves an audience. Just don’t give him one.


Today’s Listening:

1. The Stable Song by Gregory Alan Isakov fr: That Sea, The Gambler
2. You Don’t Know Me by Nora Jones with Wynton Marsalis fr: “Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis play the music of Ray Charles, with special guest Norah Jones”.
3. Low Steppin’ by Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour fr: Larry and Lee

Bell Media’s “Let’s Talk” – The Irony of It All


Bell Lets Talk logo

Bell Media has this annual thing where they want to get people talking about mental health issues and donate 5 cents for every text with a #BellLetsTalk hashtag in it.

Having some personal acquaintance with this subject, I’m all for de-stigmatizing mental/emotional conversations.
Having some professional experience with media, I can’t help but look at this event as, well …. an event.
Maybe great public relations for Bell, maybe it’s atonement. But fine,  if it gets people talking, go for it.

I’d leave it alone except for what I heard on my car radio. There was a guest mental health professional on a talk show and what he said made me think.

He was saying that a lot of his patients are young people getting anxiety problems with these “hook up” apps on their phones.

Let's Talk hipsters

This is a picture on  The Loop website, owned by Bell Media.
It’s on a page that lists: 10 Canadian dating apps that let you kiss Tinder goodbye .

So …………. Bell is providing services and distributing apps that can give rise to all these problems?
To be fair, every cell phone service provider offers the same stuff.

As Marshall McLuhan said, it’s the effects of media that matters.
And what is happening is that people are connecting to strangers fast and loose.
They blur the lines between the anonymity of the app conversations and something in real life.
If people actually do hook up from using these apps, that’s when everything gets confused. They often cannot discern how involved they are. They don’t know if it’s real.
And of course, they start to care.

I can’t even imagine meeting someone like this. I’d think it was a crank call or a telemarketer.

How different it was for me, say around the age of 19 or 20, when you had to meet people face to face. You only used the phone (if you had one) after you’d met someone in person. After you’d got a physical impression.
The closest thing I can think of was the unwise practice of dating someone in your residence.

If you broke up, it was a real person you had to face or talk to.
Break up and you still had to walk down the hall every day past their door. Ouch ouch ouch.

Dorm Rooms 1890s

My old residence.

Hallways served as “air gaps” between estranged students in those days, I guess.

But if you break up now, have you really broken up? Your relationship was a bunch of text bubbles.

dumped by text

It seems much harder to make a clean line between being with someone or not. And it seems much, much, harder to let go.


I have to keep on saying that I’m not connected to a phone the way younger people are. I’m not presuming that most people can’t handle these kinds of relationships.

But I do worry about the effects of these apps.
Will there be one for therapy?

Today’s Listening:

1. Middle Class White Boy by Mose Allison fr: Live in London 2000
2. Clear Spot by Captain Beefheart fr: Clear Spot
3. I Wish I Was The Moon by Neko Case fr: Blacklisted
4. Ys by Alan Stivell fr: Renaissance of the Celtic Harp

Urfa, By Any Other Name


No, it’s not a love story – though the fragrance of Urfa could easily conjure memories.

Urfa isot bulk

It’s a pepper I’d never heard of until I came across it  on a TV cooking show called Simply Ming and was intrigued by the way the 2 men oohed and ahhed over it.
It was supposed to be kind of like a Turkish chipotle pepper, smoky and raisin flavoured. And it went into a dish called Charred Broccoli and Butternut Squash Hummus . Whew. The pepper went into the broccoli part, not the hummus. And a lot went into it. 

urfa with broccoli

Anyway, I can’t resist a new pepper, especially one that’s more on flavour than heat. My Evel Knievel dare-devil inferno swallowing days are over.

For fun, I looked up where I might get the stuff. A Turkish grocery store just happened to be close by – with parking.
The place is the Istanbul Marche, off Dufferin just south of Yorkdale. I’ve been by it so many times it’s embarrassing. But there it was and in I went.

Marche Istanbul

These days I give up trying to look the sophisticate and just ask the man behind the feta cheese counter: “Do you have Urfa?” Naturally, he’d never heard the word before.

Maybe he was thinking of the Urfa that was a girl’s name and meant “Flower of Heaven”?


But he kindly walked me through the store and showed me where they had all the bulk spices and goodies.
I saw something that looked like it could be Urfa but it was called Isot Pepper. I looked it up on my phone and, yes, Isot and Urfa are the same thing. It’s also called Aleppo pepper – as it mostly comes from the area of Turkey near Syria.
I scooped a pile into a bag.

urfa in spoon

And the cooks were right. It had this unmistakable heady smell of smoke and raisins.
On the way back to the cash, I avoided all the olives, halvah, feta, unknown bakery items and ran right into an entire showcase dedicated to packaged Urfa. About 4 feet tall, there were dozens of pre-packaged bags of it. So it wasn’t some specialty item restricted to the bulk rack. Obviously the customers here buy a lot of it.

urfa isot in bags isot in bag isot biber bag isot burma rice bag

Well, all that satisfied the explorer in me. Now it was time to use the stuff.

Traditionally, in Turkish cuisine, Urfa is used in a lot of vegetable dishes like eggplant with yogurt .

I’d already defrosted chicken drumsticks for dinner so that was what I was going to experiment with.

I have a great chicken recipe from my friend, Sindiswa, which originates in South Africa. It calls for cooking down a lot of onion and fresh tomatoes and adding curry spices – with extra cardamom and ginger. That’s all simmered until  it’s a thick sauce. Add the chicken and braise away for a couple of hours. Works every time.

Chicken a la Sindiswa_0001_resize

Flying completely by the seat of my pants, I added a couple of tablespoons worth of the Urfa. I was a little disconcerted by all the black specks in the sauce but I guess that’s what makes it authentic.

The result was wonderful. Not as hot as chipotles would have been, the Urfa adds some of the smokiness and the “raisin” flavour that it’s known for. The heat is the kind I call a “slow fuse” heat. A bit like the Italian  Bomba sauce, it doesn’t set your mouth on fire like a Habanero pepper or blow your scalp off like wasabi. It has an initial warmth when you take that first taste, but keeps getting warmer in your stomach. But very pleasantly.

Our guests that night wanted the recipe. I’d actually made the dish before for them, but this time they wanted the recipe. It wasn’t about the heat, it was about the flavour.

Next stop, Urfa with eggplant and yogurt.


Todays listening:

1. Eggplant by Michael Franks fr: The Art of Tea

2. Istanbul by They Might Be Giants fr: Flood

3. Before the Dawn by Patrice Rushen fr: Before the Dawn